Chapter 50 : Astrovirus

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Astroviruses have been found in several species of mammals and birds, a distinguishing feature used to classify them into two genera: and . Human astroviruses (HAstV) were originally isolated in primary human embryonic kidney cells and subsequently adapted to grow in a continuous monkey kidney epithelial cell line (LLCMK2), although these cells could not be infected directly with astrovirus extracted from fecal specimens. Baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells, and probably others, support efficient replication when transfected with authentic astrovirus RNA or with in vitro-transcribed full-length astrovirus RNA, although they are not easily infected, suggesting that barriers at the entry level could determine the susceptibility of some cells to virus infection. In most temperate regions HAstV infections are more frequent in the winter, while in tropical regions astroviruses are more frequently detected during the rainy season. Contaminated food or water is the most frequent source of astrovirus infections. In turkey astrovirus infections, virus can be recovered from different organs, although the small intestine seems to be the only organ where astrovirus replicates. The mucosal immune system could be important in protecting individuals from repeated astrovirus infections. The severity of an astrovirus infection can be associated with the immune status of the patient, since immunodeficient patients have shown persistent infections with an extended course of infection and viral shedding. Prophylactic measures to avoid astrovirus spread in the population are important but may be difficult to achieve. Standard water chlorination, although not totally effective, can help to diminish astrovirus viability.

Citation: Méndez E, Arias C. 2009. Astrovirus, p 1145-1153. In Richman D, Whitley R, Hayden F (ed), Clinical Virology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815981.ch50
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Image of FIGURE 1

(A) The six- and five-point star-like morphology of astrovirus can be observed in fecal samples by negative staining and EM. (B) Paracrystalline arrays of human astrovirus particles observed by transmission EM in infected Caco-2 cells; virus clusters (V) are usually localized at the periphery of nuclei (N).

Citation: Méndez E, Arias C. 2009. Astrovirus, p 1145-1153. In Richman D, Whitley R, Hayden F (ed), Clinical Virology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815981.ch50
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Image of FIGURE 2

The gRNA of HAstV is organized into three ORFs (ORF1a, ORF1b, and ORF2), with 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions of 80 nucleotides, approximately, and a poly(A) tail. This RNA is used as a template for the synthesis of the nsp1a and nsp1ab nonstructural proteins. nsp1ab is produced by a translational frameshift mechanism using the signal (fs). nsp1a and nsp1ab participate in the synthesis of the three species of viral RNA. The negative-sense RNA is used as a template to produce more gRNA and the sgRNA, which codes for the structural protein. Motifs identified in the nonstructural proteins include hydrophobic small regions (black boxes), a serine protease (pro), an NLS, and an RdRp. A phosphorylation site (P) has been identified in nsp1a. The numbers in the squares represent the hypothetical order of the genome replication steps.

Citation: Méndez E, Arias C. 2009. Astrovirus, p 1145-1153. In Richman D, Whitley R, Hayden F (ed), Clinical Virology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815981.ch50
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Image of FIGURE 3

Scheme of a viral particle and the structural proteins of HAstV. Comparative sequence analysis of VP90 with structural proteins of other viruses suggests that the hypervariable region of VP90 (shaded box) forms the spikes of the particle, while the conserved domain (white box) forms the structured core ( ). The structural protein contains basic (B) and acidic (A) regions that are highly conserved among astroviruses. Assembled virus particles containing VP90 are intracellularly processed by caspases (arrowheads) to yield particles formed by VP70 that are released from the cell. These particles are then cleaved by trypsin at specific sites (arrows) to yield fully infectious viruses containing proteins of 34, 27, and 25 kDa (VP34, VP27, and VP25). These data are based on studies carried out with a HAstV-8 strain (Yuc8) ( ). The drawing of the astrovirus particle at the top is based on images obtained by cryo-EM ( ).

Citation: Méndez E, Arias C. 2009. Astrovirus, p 1145-1153. In Richman D, Whitley R, Hayden F (ed), Clinical Virology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815981.ch50
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Image of FIGURE 4

(A) Photomicrograph of a jejunal biopsy specimen from a bone marrow transplant recipient with astrovirus infection demonstrating villus blunting, nonspecific alterations in surface epithelial cells, and a mixed lamina propria inflammatory infiltrate, but without the presence of viral inclusion bodies (original magnification, ×100). Also shown are photomicrographs of duodenal (B) and jejunal (C) biopsy samples from a bone marrow transplant recipient with astrovirus infection immunostained with antiastrovirus antibody and demonstrating progressively extensive staining of surface epithelial cells, most commonly near the villus tips (original magnifications, ×40 and ×100, respectively). (D) Electron micrographs of a jejunal enterocyte demonstrating cytoplasmic paracrystalline viral arrays of astrovirus (original magnifications, ×32,000 and ×100,000 [inset]). (Adapted from reference with permission.)

Citation: Méndez E, Arias C. 2009. Astrovirus, p 1145-1153. In Richman D, Whitley R, Hayden F (ed), Clinical Virology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815981.ch50
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